Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife is shaping up to be quite an underwhelming trudge through a beige world that’s full of beige horrors and beige gameplay mechanics.
Billed as a ‘horror exploration game’, Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife is light on jump scares and heavy on those most boring of VR moments – the ones where you just have to stand around and twiddle your thumbs while you listen to other people explain the story to you.
I recently played a preview demo that covered the first 20 percent of the game and during that time I encountered the bare minimum in terms of frights or interesting puzzles. I did however do a lot of walking through sparsely decorated and barely interactive locations with my arm outstretched like a half-arsed zombie looking for brains.
If you want to see the game (and a couple of its bugs) in action, check out this week’s episode of Ian’s VR Corner below where I make my way through some of the most bland VR horror I’ve played in a long time.
I’ve edited the video to remove the moments where you’re forced to listen to the story rather than experience it, so if you’re a fan of other World of Darkness games, like Vampire: The Masquerade or Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood and you want to experience Wraith’s plot twists for yourself, this should be fairly spoiler free look at the game.
For me, the most successful VR games are the ones like The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners or Phasmophobia. Games where there may be an overarching narrative, but largely the story emerges and evolves around you as you go. Wraith on the other-hand feels like such a step backwards for immersion, to a time when developers were still unsure of the possibilities of VR and were scared to try anything too extreme.
The game takes place in the mouldy remains of Barclay Mansion and you – playing as the recently resurrected photographer, Ed Miller – have to piece together the unsettling events that went on there by discovering ‘shadows’ of past events. This basically involves walking at a snails pace through rectangular rooms, waiting for scripted events to happen. Not once will you feel like you’re exploring or discovering things for yourself because you’re quite literally led through the game by the hand at all times.
Gifted with a ghostly ‘Sharpened Senses’ power, you can feel your way towards the next piece of exposition by holding your hand out to see if your arm will glow or not. If it does, you go that way! It’s a bit like checking a compass to find your waypoint, but here you look way sillier and it tires your arm out more.
It’s just all so disappointing. Even the one section that should have been scary was ruined by clunky AI and repetitive one-hit-and-you’re-dead stealth mechanics that feel like they’re torn straight out of a 90s game.
I thought maybe all those modern, big budget VR games had spoiled me and that maybe I’d set my expectations too high for Wraith, but then I remembered that Phasmophobia was made by, like, one person and that holds more scares in its front porches than Wraith had in its entire 90 minute demo.
I think the real killer here for me though is the lack of innovation on offer. I’ve seen the other main mechanic in the game – using a torch to stop enemies and open up blocked pathways – in a bunch of different games before and it worked better in all of those. Even the mansion itself felt lifeless, devoid of anything but the most basic props that might make the world feel lived in. Sure you can pick up a bottle once in a while and look at the label on it, but other than that interactivity with the world seems limited to door handles, lore pick-ups and code operated key-pads.
Honestly, I know this is a game about death and all, but there’s literally no life to Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife’s world whatsoever. Still, with a May 31st release date, across PC platforms and Playstation 4, there’s still time to tighten things up and maybe make the tension feel like less of an afterthought.